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NHS 111 delays unlikely as CCGs look set to push ahead

Exclusive: Any delay in the rollout of NHS 111 looks increasingly unlikely as no CCG has requested extra time to introduce the new urgent care service and preferred providers have been announced for 40% of the population in England.

The latest figures shows preferred providers for the new 111 service have been announced in 24 areas of England, covering 41% of the population, with ambulance trusts and GP-led services leading the field.

Pulse can also reveal not a single CCG in England has formally requested an extension to date on their rollout of NHS 111 to their SHA cluster, despite the deadline fast approaching.

The Department of Health announced last month that CCGs who wished to apply for a six-month extension to the April 2013 deadline should submit an application in writing to the senior responsible officer at their SHA cluster.

The SHA will then pass this onto an expert clinical panel at the Department of Health by Friday 27 July 2012 to decide if a delay is needed.

The move followed concerns expressed by the GPC, NHS Direct and other providers that the April 2013 deadline for the rollout of the new service was too tight for some CCGs.

GP leaders were worried there would not be adequate clinical engagement and that the rushed rollout would undermine the safety and reliability of the new service.

But the four SHA clusters, which cover the whole of England, told Pulse that no CCGs had applied for an extension to date, suggesting the majority are set to push ahead with plans to rollout the service next year.

This is despite the DH saying it had allowed the flexibility ‘having sought the views of senior CCG representatives and other stakeholders, we believe that an extension of up to six months of the original April 2013 deadline may be necessary in some cases'.

The development comes as the latest figures show commissioners are overlooking NHS Direct in favour of ambulance trusts and GP-led out-of-hours services to run NHS 111.

Board papers from NHS Direct show out of the 24 areas that have chosen a preferred provider, NHS Direct has been selected in only three, covering 4% of England's population. Download the paper here.

Ambulance trusts have been chosen as preferred providers for services covering 15% of the population; GP out-of-hours providers cover 13%; ambulance trusts and GP out-of-hours services combined cover 7% and other type of organisations cover 2%.

Dr Nigel Watson, chair of the GPC's commissioning and service development subcommittee, and a GP in the New Forest, urged GP commissioners to be open if they needed more time to develop the new service.

He said: ‘This isn't true locally, but some CCGs seem cautious in what they'll say in public.

‘If 111 is going to happen it's got to be effective and it's got to be right. One of the roles of local commissioning is to be open, honest and transparent, and if there are problems, they need to say what they are, and not just carry on and do it because its national policy.'

Dr Watson added that the absence of requests to delay did not necessarily mean that CCGs were ready for April 2013 rollout.

He said: ‘I think a lot of [CCGs] have got so many things on their plate with going through authorisation, doing their constitution and everything else. You also have to look and say that 111 is not co-terminus with CCG, and the procurement of 111, I would say is not being led by CCGs.'

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